Everyone who works with chemicals is required to have proper training. This applies to both teachers and students.
When handling chemicals in a school, the teacher needs two different skill sets:
- Knowledge and practical skills needed to work safely with hazardous chemicals, and teach the students to do the same.
- Skills and competencies needed to work with chemical safety tasks such as risk assessment, storage of chemicals, and handling hazardous waste.
While teachers may have learned to work safely with hazardous chemicals as part of their education, their training in taking care of a chemical department is often limited. Furthermore, those who are competent need to maintain and update their knowledge.
Responsibility for Teachers’ HSE Training
An employer in a workplace with hazardous chemicals is required to make sure employees are competent to work safely with chemicals. Employees who have work tasks related to chemical safety, must also be given the time and training necessary to work confidently. This also applies to science and chemistry teachers, and laboratory technicians, and their work with chemicals and chemical safety.
There are several ways to arrange this training. In some countries, such courses are offered by worker unions or private or public enterprises. Otherwise, the training has to be arranged locally. This website covers the basic requirements and how-tos of chemical safety work, and can be used as a resource for chemical safety training.
Working With Hazardous Chemicals
Teachers, who do not feel confident working with hazardous chemicals, must receive proper training. It is important that the teachers and the principal communicate about whether such training is needed. This type of training is not covered by this website.
Basic Training in Chemical Safety Work for Teachers
All science and chemistry teachers should have a basic understanding of the issues related to chemical safety and be familiar with the chemical safety routines at their school.
We recommend including the pre-training assignment and the post-training project, as chemical safety knowledge is more meaningful in a work-related context. However, you can also choose only to do the basic introduction part in the middle.
Write down questions you would like an answer to during the training.
Basic introduction to chemical safety
The basic training should at least include the following topics:
- Presentation and expectations
- CheSSE.org as a chemical safety resource
- Legislation. Required and recommended practice
- Responsibility issues
- Safety data sheets
- Risk assessment
- Storage and labelling of chemicals.
- Making your own solutions and labels
- Handling hazardous waste
- Teacher’s responsibility in the laboratory
- School routines and information
- Consolidation and final thoughts
The post-training project can be undertaken by yourself. Nevertheless, working together with a colleague is a good option.
- Identify a chemical safety issue in your school that needs improvement
- Make an action plan for what you will do to improve the situation and execute the plan
- Write a brief report and share it with your employer.
Specific Training for Particular Tasks
If someone is assigned a particular chemical safety task, they must be given the knowledge and competence to do it satisfactorily. It can for example be related to updating the chemical inventory. This training can be given by the person who had the task previously, in a course or by self-study. Regardless of the circumstances, it is important to set aside time for training.
It is valuable if one or more people in the organisation receive extensive training in chemical safety and can be a resource on chemical safety issues.
Support After Training
To maintain and develop chemical safety skills, the school should aspire to develop a chemical safety culture, where issues can be discussed with colleagues at regular intervals. Some countries also have national or regional networks, or private or public enterprises that provide support on chemical safety issues.
We recommend that students recieve a course in basic laboratory safety at the beginning of each year, adapted to the needs and activities of the age group. This includes learning the rules that apply in the science or chemistry laboratory and how to read and interpret hazard pictograms. Making the rules together with the students through discussion can make them easier to remember and increase compliance.
It can also be a good idea to train students in specific laboratory techniques, for example correct use of gas burners or pipetting techniques, to ensure correct handling and minimise the risk of accidents. In such cases, awarding a certificate or a badge as proof of completed training can serve to document the student’s mastery of practical skills.